Suicide rates among law enforcement officials appear to be on the rise. Experts say at least twice as many police officers die from suicide than they do in the line of duty. But here in Dothan, that's not the case.
The City of Dothan has an employee assistance program, which basically provides mental health counseling for city employees. For some, this can come in handy especially when severe stress leads to suicidal thoughts.
"Most thoughts pass but if you're a police officer and you have a weapon on you and you have that thought... you may not know it's going to pass and you have the ability to act on it immediately,” said Kim Chosie, a counselor with Bradford Health Services.
According to the suicide foundation, an average of 450 law enforcement officers committed suicide in each of the last three years, compared to about 150 who died in the line of duty, during the same time period. Experts say only two percent of the nations law enforcement agencies have suicide prevention programs. The Dothan Police Department is part of that small percentage.
"Any time a police officer is involved in an incident of a serious nature, involving a death that he may or may not have been involved with or come upon it, counseling is provided for that officer," said Captain Nick Monday, of the Dothan Police Department.
Counselors with Bradford health services are on call 24/7 to assist police officers through the city's Employee Assistance Program, and officers agree that some of the crimes they witness do take a toll.
"When you go to a call where children have been injured or abused, or that they've died... that's pretty serious and it may take you a while, and you may have to ask and go to get help or counseling," said Officer Jason Adkins.
Chosie says, "Their jobs take away from their family and friends and support they have... and generally within the police department, there can be a stigma when it comes to receiving mental health of any type, so they're reluctant to do it."
Fortunately that's not the case with the Dothan Police Department. Officials say the program is working. There has only been one suicide in the department's history.
Mental health specialists also offer counseling services to the family members of police officers.
For more information about the services provided by Bradford Health Services, log onto their website, at www.bradfordhealth.com